Designing Your Own Plays
Notice: This article was written by Steve Jordan, Coach's Notebook.
Email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is a hobby of mine. I've never seen a book on it, but I don't believe
you need one. Why spend your time and money searching for the answer to your
team's need for a play in a book someone else wrote? So many coaches ask for
help with questions like, how do I break a 1-3-1 press? Or, what offense do I
run against a 2-1-2 zone? Well, what if you can't find the answer in someone
else's playbook? What are you going to do?
The trick is to think it through. Draw the opposition's defense on paper and
study it. I like to
experiment with pencil and paper, or use coins and push them around to explore
possibilities. Then don't be shy. Draw up your own fine play. Then you can call
it anything you want. (See the Alaska Play
on this site.)
What helps is to have a few rules.
- Determine your point of origin
- Pick a specific objective (lay-up on an OB play, for example)
- Don't engineer risky elements, ie cross court passes or have one player
possess the ball for several seconds.
- Every element you add should support the objective (or provide intentional
misdirection). Trim any needless action.
- Elements should promote sound principles, like players moving towards
passes, picking away for people so that they move towards the ball.
- If you are designing a continuous pattern, keep it simple. The play should
return to the basic set frequently so the players have a chance to reset. They
also learn the play faster if they remain in a recognizable pattern.
- Avoid long series of actions to create a shot opportunity. If you have 4
passes, 3 screens, everybody ends up in a different place, and the first shot
you get is deep in the corner, you have a confusing play with low benefit
- Describe your play to somebody. Talking it through clarifies it in your
own mind. Even someone who knows little basketball may point out a logic error.
An experienced listener can test your play with hypothetical conditions.
- Remember the purpose of plays is to create shots (or kill time), not to
run patterns. Players should be able to react to defensive opportunities.
- Test it with your team. Listen to their comments and suggestions. Be
- Trim off what doesn't work or isn't needed. In many plays, 2 or 3 players
are enough. The others should get out of the way or create diversions.
Hope that is of some help! Have fun with it. Maybe someday you will see your
play on TV.